This is a decision so personal that a man or woman may spend years sorting through his deepest feelings to answer questions like:
Where is “home”? Where do I belong? What will I lose? How will this change my life?
I did not write today’s post. It was penned by one of my fellow Americans here in Japan who has done that thinking and has made his decision.
May it be of benefit to all of us who struggle with questions about identity, attachments, and allegiance.
On the Path to Citizenship in Japan
A Full Member of Society with Rights: The biggest motivation for requesting Japanese citizenship is simply that I want to be a citizen in my own home. I want the right to vote and all the concrete and fuzzy meanings that attach to being a full citizen. To me this seems a natural progression for an immigrant: if one intends to live somewhere for the rest of one’s life, why would one go out of their way to remain a foreigner? Why hold back? If you don’t want to be a full member of the society you live in, then why are you still living there?
Stability: I’m tired of being a foreigner. I want to be a real person. Some people may enjoy the role of being a foreigner, to be seen as exotic or different. But that is not something that I think most people can tolerate for their entire lives. At some point, a desire for stability and a yearning to just be a plain old person will assert itself in most immigrants. This leads them to go back where they came from, or else go all the way and seek citizenship.
Home: Sooner or later, one has to decide where one is going to call “home”. For me, it has been a gradual process of setting roots down here. I was recently asked if I ever planned to “go back,” and all I could think was: Go back to what? If I ever returned to any of the places where I used to live, most of the people I knew would be gone, and the places themselves would have changed. So it would not really be going back, but more like going to a new place again.
A Good Life: Also, of course, my life is all here: I have a family, a house, and pets. I have a good job with stimulating work that I look forward to continuing until I retire. After retirement, I hope to spend time on outdoor activities in the mountains of Japan for as long as I am able, and perhaps do more volunteer work than I have time for now. I also want to visit many parts of the country that I have not yet had a chance to see.
Letting Go: Japan does not allow dual citizenship, so I will have to relinquish US citizenship. This is not a decision to be taken lightly – I can’t just take Japanese citizenship and hang onto the US one as a “spare”. I have to make the decision, from the start, that I am willing to give up my US citizenship.
What do I give up by relinquishing my US passport?
- I am giving up the right to vote in US Federal elections and the right to go live in the US without the fear of deportation. For someone who plans on living in the US someday, these would indeed be very valuable rights. I find it more valuable to have those rights here in Japan.
- The other thing I give up is the requirement to file tax returns with the US. Trying to understand and keep up with the complex, ever-changing rules that apply to American citizens abroad is certainly a challenge that I can do without. It’s not the taxes that I mind; it’s the complexity and fear of unreasonable fines.
I have to pick one or the other, and the one I have come to choose for the remaining stages of my life is Japanese citizenship.